The organization also discussed a proposed pawn shop in a Bustleton Avenue strip mall.
Residents at the Somerton Civic Association’s Sept. 11 meeting voted to oppose a zoning variance that would allow a podiatrist to use her private home on Bustleton Avenue as a medical practice.
The vote came after a lengthy and tense discussion during which neighbors raised concerns about the driveway being enlarged at the property, 14250 Bustleton Ave.
Although it has a Bustleton Avenue address, the property faces Burgess Street and is zoned single family residential. It had been used as a dentist office for decades.
Dr. Bruni Leka and her husband have filed an application for a zoning variance to allow them to operate a medical office on the site as an accessory use. They would also be living on the property.
In June, the civic association agreed to support the variance under the condition that the owner lived there and that the paved area of the driveway not be enlarged, according to the group’s president, Chris Bordelon. He said talks between nearby residents and the owners broke down after that meeting when it became clear that Leka intended to widen the driveway.
During last week’s meeting, Leka told members of the association that she never signed any agreement. She also said that parking and other aspects of the property should be considered only after she is approved for a use variance.
“We’re not trying to do anything different” with the property, Leka said. “The footprint is not going to change.”
Leka did say that she would like to expand the property’s driveway by 10 to 12 feet to accommodate four parking spots, including one handicap space. She also wants to install a handicap ramp at the entrance.
“We don’t have a problem with the handicap ramp,” said Michele Haberle, who lives next door to the property. “Our problem is with a parking lot.”
Haberle said a parking lot would detract from the residential appearance of the property. Sufficient parking for a small number of patients is already available on the block, she said.
Another neighbor said residents had reached an agreement with the previous owner of the property, a dentist, that promised the driveway would not be expanded. Several residents said Leka promised the same at the June meeting.
Leka said she never agreed to any conditions regarding the parking lot, which prompted one member of the public to later say, “I feel that you lied to us.”
Leka told residents that she is open to reasonable negotiations and said she has never received sufficient explanations from neighbors about their concerns.
“It’s a private property that we have purchased with years and years of very hard work and savings and having someone come in and say I don’t like this on your property and you should do this or that,” Leka said. “It’s not reasonable.”
City property records indicate Leka and her husband purchased the property in February for about $190,000.
Residents at the civic association meeting voted 32–12 against supporting the variance. The Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled for hear Leka’s appeal Sept. 26.
In other news from the Sept. 11 meeting:
The Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to hear from an applicant in November who wants to put a pawn shop in a strip mall at 14250 Bustleton Ave. Attorneys for the applicant were supposed to appear at last week’s meeting but canceled the day before, Bordelon said.
“They’ll be invited to come next month, and we’ll take a vote at that time,” he told residents.
Bordelon said signs have already appeared in the window of the property soliciting gold, watches, jewelry and other valuables. Residents were given the opportunity to voice their opinion of a potential pawn shop, and support for the concept appeared to be low.
“Let a check cashing place in. Let a pawn shop in,” said one man in attendance. “The neighborhood goes straight down the tube. It’s the beginning of the end.”
The comment was greeted with claps from the crowd.
The Odd Fellows are hosting a blood drive Monday, Sept. 24, from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Walker Lodge, 1290 Southampton Road. Other events promoted at the meeting included a shredder event hosted by state Rep. Martina White to be held Saturday, Sept. 22, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Christopher School, 13301 Proctor Road. and a senior expo hosted by state Sen. John Sabatina Jr. to be held Friday, Oct. 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Armory, 2700 Southampton Road. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org